Our northern neighbors have much to offer for spring break

The funny thing about winter term is that it always seems to go by quickly, or at least up until the eighth week (when it starts to seem as it will never end).

Fortunately, it is now time to get finals out of the way and have a little time off.I have asked many students what they are going to do during spring break. I have found that many of us plan to stay in Portland and either work or just relax.

For those of you that are considering going on vacation, but have yet to finalize any plans, let me make some suggestions. It might be too cold to go camping or to the Oregon coast this spring, unless you have extreme-weather camping gear. However, there are a quite a few affordable destinations in the Pacific Northwest. One of my personal favorites is British Columbia.

A friend of mine and I went to B.C. last spring break and had a lot of fun. First, we went to Vancouver, which is a lot nicer than most rainy cities of its size. We stayed in a nice, centrally located hostel (run by Hostelling International, a company that maintains clean and affordable hostels all over the world). The hostel costs about $20 U.S. per person, per night, for dormitory style accommodations. Most of the rooms contain four bunk beds, four lockers and a sink. There are bathroom facilities on each floor. The hostel also has a shared kitchen, a TV room, a library and a game room (complete with a pool table, Internet stations, and an old-school Pacman arcade game).

Vancouver really does have something for everyone. There is ample shopping, an abundance of bars and clubs (the drinking age is 19), and a ‘coffee shop,’ in the Amsterdam sense of the word (only you must bring your own weed). There is the Museum of Anthropology, which houses a variety of artifacts from tribes native to the area. For the outdoors enthusiast, there is the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park, located in the beautiful forest of North Vancouver. The city is also home to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (the first authentic Chinese Garden outside of China), a main attraction of Vancouver’s famous Chinatown.Another nice place to visit in B.C. is Victoria, a relaxed and charming city located on beautiful Vancouver Island. The island is only accessible by boat; reasonably priced ferries run regularly from Port Angeles, Wash. (the closest place to board a ferry if you are traveling from Portland), Seattle and mainland Canada. However, keep in mind that not all ferries go directly to Victoria. The main hostel in Victoria is located a few short blocks from the ferry port. Victoria’s hostel (also run by Hostelling International) has more bunks per room and is less fancy than its Vancouver equivalent.

To be honest, I did not go to many of Victoria’s main tourist attractions. However, I have heard that the city has a fabulous wax museum (the Royal London Wax Museum), with over 300 sculptures. Another popular attraction is the famous Royal British Columbia Museum, which focuses on the history of the region. There is also a museum of holographs, a butterfly garden and Miniature World, an exhibition of scaled-down circuses, doll houses, castles and more. Or, if you have an interest in nature, check out the Crystal Garden Conservation Centre, which houses an amazing array of exotic plants and animals.

Victoria is an absolutely lovely city, with a wonderful waterfront and many beautifully designed buildings, such as the extremely overpriced yet visually pleasing Empress Hotel. Parliament, which is located on the banks of the city’s harbor, is another beautiful building. Its gardens, however, are too manicured, creating an oppressively orderly air that one often associates with the queen who gave the city its name.

So, if you are looking for a place to take an inexpensive trip, British Columbia might be just the place for you. For more information about Vancouver and Victoria (respectively), go to www.tourism-vancouver.org and www.attractionsvictoria.com. Hostels in both cities can be reserved online at www.hihostels.bc.ca. For ferry schedules and fares, check out www.bcferries.bc.ca. Bon Voyage!